Yesterday I had my physical. My doctor told me I’d gained a few pounds since my last visit. I was expecting this, as mentioned previously I’m on a new medication that causes weight gain. It didn’t stop that sucker- punch feeling, right in my stomach. In addition to the guilt of gaining weight, I was completely drained from spending so much time waiting in the exam room. I had to bring Anna with me, and although she is very well behaved, three hours in an office can be especially trying.
When we finally left the office, I had to run into Walmart for some groceries. Anna was spent, and I was right there with her. My feet felt heavy, my shoulders huddled forward as my confidence and energy quickly depleted. I tried to keep a running total in my head as I threw items into my basket, and my anxiety grew as I watch the total rise. We are broke, really broke. What can we do without?
There were so many negative feelings inside of me when we reached the seasonal department. Exhaustion, depression, financial guilt, anxiety and frustration caused the sting of new tears in my eyes. I fought them back as I walked through the aisle, Valentine’s day merchandise surrounded me. Pink, red, and glitter should have lifted my mood. My eyes were drawn to all the little hearts and stuffed toys. I was tempted to buy Anna a little something for being such a good sport with our errands, but I knew it would eventually end up just being another piece of junk at the bottom of the toybox. The last thing we need is more useless junk. Then, there I was: standing in front of a wall of chocolate.
Oh, how quickly I found those Reese’s hearts. Thousands of justifications popped into my head. I deserve a treat, peanut butter has protein, it’s only 97 cents, I could use a sugar pick me up, I haven’t eaten yet today. I held one in my hand for a moment.
Guilt. Instant guilt.
Why am I wasting money on something so trivial? I was just told this morning that I gained weight, why would I buy something like chocolate? I’ve worked so hard cutting out sugar, is this really worth keto flu?
It wasn’t worth it, and I put it back.
On the drive home, Anna dozed off. I found myself alone in the quietness, which is never a good thing. My thoughts wandered as jouska set in. I started to think about the days that I would have bought that chocolate. I remembered that I would have not bought just one. I know I would have ripped that first package open while I stood in that long line to pay. Probably two or three more while I was alone in the car. I’d hide them when I got home, not because I didn’t want to share, but because of the shame that comes with buying them in the first place.
I thought about how I’d have handled stress that evening, knowing a bag of Reese’s were hidden in my nightstand drawer. I’d shut the bedroom door, and while I was alone I’d start tearing open one after another. The sugar would drowned those unhappy feeling for a few seconds. I’d chase that feeling of happiness by eating more and more, trying to extend those few seconds to maybe a minute or two. Eventually I’d look down at my lap, which would be littered with all the empty candy wrappers. Guilt sets in again, the unhappiness creeps back. What have I done? Why have I dug myself deeper? After bingeing I’d feel even more sadness, exhaustion and guit than before I started eating the chocolate. I’d want to be immediately free of that guilt, that heaviness, that sugar. I’d purge. I’d cry on the bathroom floor wondering what’s wrong with me.
Anna stirred in the back seat, bringing me back to the “now.” I could take an outside view of all the feelings I’d just been thinking about. I know that I’m not in the habit of making bad decisions anymore. I can say no, I can walk away and not buy the chocolate. Notice I didn’t say “I’m not that girl anymore.” The truth is, I will always be that girl.
Food for me is a drug. For most addicts, they are told to avoid their addiction all together. Don’t drink a drop of alcohol, stay away from the people you spent time with while you used drugs, don’t even walk into a casino if you’re recovering from gambling. Food is different. It’s required for basic living. I’m not able to keep away from my addiction all together, and the temptation to fall back into my old ways is always right there in front of me.
Tomorrow is my birthday. I’ve had to plan everything out ahead of time to avoid the temptation to “treat myself” too many times in one day. I know that I’m going to the juice bar for lunch, and what I’m ordering. The same for dinner, right down to the dressing and side that I’m omitting. I’m looking forward to a great day, but also scared of the sugary bait that awaits me. It’s not just food I discover on my own. So many people think it’s kind to bake a treat on my birthday, and as much as I appreciate the thought, it’s like offering a drug addict heroin “in moderation.” No day is special enough to make me forget how hard I’ve worked to get here, and how awful it would be to go back to my old ways.
I mentioned that people like to offer treats on birthdays. It’s also holidays and gatherings, where the buffet of food stretches all the way down the kitchen table. It’s not okay to tell me to “treat myself” for one day. It’s not okay to have a birthday surprise delivered to our table. It’s not okay to make me a plate, or guilt me into eating something I shouldn’t. That’s enabling, that’s pushing. You don’t realize the negative ramifications of that kind of behavior. I can’t always depend that others will be as strict as I intend to, so I’ve had to change my own way of thinking.
Originally, I thought “yes! It is my Birthday! I’ll treat myself to as much as I want!” Then, with lifestyle changes came, “no, I can’t have that.” I’m not sure why, but that statement seemed to invite negotiation. Using “can’t” made others want to rationalize the bad choice, like it was up for discussion. I’ve now had to change my mantra all together with, “ I will not have that.” It seems to be strict enough to end the nagging, but can still be said in a friendly, lighthearted way.
My vice is still hidden deep inside of me. My demons are easily accessible in every grocery store, bar, restaurant, drive thru, party and fridge that I visit. It is a minute by minute battle, and I fight it every single day. Sometimes I make mistakes and give in, and that’s an easy way to unravel. I always appreciate the support of my close family and friends, but rely on my own moral compass most. The most I can do it try to be better each day. Addiction recovery is a very long, very difficult road but I’m gaining coping mechanisms every day. Getting help was the best decision I ever made. It gave me my life back, and it makes every day a little bit easier. If you’re struggling, I encourage you to do the same.
With healthy hearts,
Kate and the Kids.